North Pole surges above freezing in the dead of winter, stunning scientists is the title of an article by Jason Samenow in yesterday’s Washington Post.
Temperatures may have soared as high as 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) at the North pole, which is more than 50 degrees (30 degrees Celsius) above normal according the climate scientist Zachary Labe.
Graphic by Zachary Labe, Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine
There are several likely consequences of such extreme warming. Temperatures above freezing for longer periods will melt glaciers. That will accelerate air and water warming, since there is less ice to reflect the sunlight. Higher air temperatures mean the air can hold more water. Water vapor also traps heat like greenhouse gases do. More water vapor also means greater rainfall amounts.
Melting ice will contribute to rising sea levels.
Sea Level Rise Union of Concerned Scientists
The other alarming consequence is that as the arctic waters warm and as the permafrost melts, huge volumes of methane are released. Methane is 86 times more potent as a greenhouse gas. Rising concentrations of methane will rapidly increase air temperatures.
All of this portends increasingly severe storms, hotter air and sea temperatures, sea level rise, storm surges and flooding, droughts and wildfires. We need to prepare for dramatic changes in the movement of people as areas of the country are impacted by severe storms, drought and coastal flooding.